“What time do you have to gym every day?”
“Why is it so easy for Martha to keep track of her expenses?”
“How do you organize your daily tasks so easily!?”
“I should start drinking enough water like you do.”
Admired and desired behavioral traits are not developed overnight. What you do repeatedly sticks and becomes a part of you. John did not automatically find it so easy to go to the gym every day, neither did Martha initially love the discipline of keeping and maintaining a record of expenses. If you think of any habit you have now, be it negative or positive, you would realize that the development of such started gradually. For the good ones, it was not that much of an easy task to get to where you are with it at the moment.
I would go straight to a guideline for habit formation that has worked for myself and a couple of other people I know.
- Goal formation: Some of the goals we want to achieve will require the development of habits. We get dissatisfied and want to improve on different areas of ourselves. John probably has a goal of attaining a certain weight, wants to get a better physique or may be a directive of his doctor. Martha probably has the goal of clear skin. It is important that you state the habit(s) needed to attain that goal and aim at developing them.
- Plan to be persistent: I would also advice that you make plans to maintain this habit. Set reminders, get an accountability partner that would not take unreasonable excuses. Also set ‘benefit reminders’ (this helps a lot because we sometimes forget why we need those habits formed).
- Take Baby steps: I know it will be amazing if we could have so much willpower to go hard on those habits but it is important that one starts small. Taking little steps and setting reasonable targets will make it easier to be consistent over time. Start doing those things you can sustain for the beginning phase. It is much better to take realistic steps than taking unrealistic ones which you cannot keep up with. When I wanted to form the habit of meditating every day, I started with 10 minutes a day and that was unrealistic because it was hard to get my mind still for that long everyday which I was not used to. So, I reduced the minutes to 6 minutes and I did so in bits, 3 in the morning and before bed. That was more realistic and easy to keep up with for the beginning phase.
- Build on it: If you are consistent, you would get used to the baby steps and can begin to take on more. You want to develop your writing skills? You could start by writing a short note to yourself daily. After some weeks, get a buddy and ask for permission to send a note of how your day went. Then later go further to pick a word, quote or phrase to share your thoughts on. It’s a gradual process.
- Know the benefits: It is also very important that you are aware of the good returns of that habit. Remember the good feeling from the returns and stir up a craving for it. Having this at the back of your mind will serve as a motivation to keep developing that habit.
Be it a health habit, a work habit or a family (group) habit, cheers to the formation of good habits!
Ima-Abasi Itama (ACIPM)